Browse by Theme: Sexual Reproductive & Maternal Health

As a Syrian woman working on the humanitarian response to the crisis in my own country for the past eight years, I have experienced firsthand how the response was not able to meet the needs of women and girls, without the equal participation and leadership of women in the aid sector.

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After a busy and challenging 2020, we at CARE, like many of you, were eager to turn the page to 2021. The new year is now upon us, and while many challenges remain for us to work through and overcome, it seems like a good time to reflect on the progress that has been made, even under difficult circumstances. We are particularly excited to celebrate a milestone anniversary – CARE’s Bihar Technical Support Programme (BTSP) in India is entering its 10th year of operation!

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Child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM) happens in nearly every country on the planet and has devastating consequences, especially for young girls. These types of marriages are often followed quickly by pregnancy, which carries huge risks, as the adolescent girls most affected by CEFM are not mentally or physically mature enough to carry a child and give birth. Still, most married girls are expected to get pregnant as soon as possible. Why the rush? And why do some couples choose to defy expectations and postpone having their first child?

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One persistent challenge with social accountability approaches is that, while they can and do bring meaningful change at the individual and community-level, they often struggle to maintain momentum without significant external support and thus fail to unlock regional and national resources. In 2015, CARE partnered with Malawi’s Ntcheu district government to explore new approaches for institutionalising social accountability efforts in family planning (FP) service delivery.

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Governments, NGOs, and society at large must work towards the end of child marriage, but it is also critical to recognise the power of girls to lead the way to end this practice in their own communities. UNFPA estimates that 13 million more child marriages could take place by 2030 than would have prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, programmes that work to end child marriage are unable to operate due to shelter-in-place directives. However, girl activists, within their own communities, are able to subversively challenge the norms and attitudes that put them at risk for child marriage.

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The COVID-19 crisis is disproportionately affecting women and girls. This makes it all the more important that their voices are equally included in the decision-making spaces and processes where responses are formed. CARE’s research has found that where women do have higher levels of leadership, governments are more likely to be responding to the crisis in a way that supports gender equality. Women’s participation is necessary at every level and in every arena, from national crisis committees to the local communities on the frontlines of humanitarian responses.

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Our experience shows that integrating sexual reproductive health (SRH) and gender-based violence (GBV) services into community-led outreach programmes, which prioritise feedback and interaction, are key if we are to meet the needs of women and girls during a crisis. In Cox’s Bazar, women and girls sit at the heart of conflict and fragility as part of the largest stateless population in the world. A new Rapid Gender Analysis of the potential impact of COVID-19 in Cox’s Bazar shows that women and girls face significant risks of a rollback of their rights. A quarter of healthcare workers already report fewer women visiting health facilities, and 43% have heard of a pregnant woman or mother dying in the last week. CARE is calling upon donors and governments to fund SRH and GBV services, as essential services in the COVID-19 response, in line with the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP).

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